*Editor's Note - this movie review, as with any review made by a human, is my own opinion.
We all know that the fiasco surrounding the OGL was terrible and lost Hasbro/WotC a lot of good faith with fans worldwide, with some being so alienated they may never return. However, there was another camp of players and creators who, although still wary and still upset about the OGL fiasco, are glad that the decisions about the OGL were left in the dust and are willing to re-extend good faith to D&D's parent company, Hasbro, so long as they don't try to pull anything else. The first major product to appear since then besides a D&D source book or two is a film produced by Paramount Pictures based on Dungeons & Dragons and yes, we went to see it along with many other folks who are fans of D&D or newcomers to the hobby. So, whether you're curious about how the movie was and don't want to give Hasbro your money or if you plan on seeing it and want to know how it is first, we've got you.
THE GOOD NEWS
Listen, if you are a fan of D&D - the movie is chock full of D&D Easter Eggs, D&D locations, D&D monsters, and even D&D party dynamics. It's very clear that Hasbro actually tried to appeal to the core of D&D's fanbase, which is a good thing because that's where the majority of their viewers were most likely going to come from and they can't afford to lose any more fans. Still, that hasn't stopped other franchises from alienating their fanbase (looking at you, The Last Jedi) in the past. But I can say as someone who is still wary of Hasbro's antics that the translation from the gaming table to the big screen is a pretty decent one, (though I think Vox Machina still does it much better). As a player, filmgoers will definitely be able to sit back, eat some popcorn, and immerse themselves as much as possible in the world of D&D.
The Bad News
The bad news? Unfortunately for those looking for a deeper connection to the existing lore of the D&D world, there's not much to bite into or to immerse yourselves in. Sure, we get little glimpses of the larger world map, and we get to see bits of Neverwinter, but the glimpses we do get are fairly generic. Neverwinter in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves is not explored in the least, and the bits we do get to see are no different from any other generic fantasy world city. The Neverwinter of the movie has arguably less personality than even some of the video games that have been released depicting it in the past. Depending on what you think about Marvel Universe movies, you may also like or dislike the humor. In my opinion, several of the scenes and jokes were direct riffs on, homages to, or ripoffs of Marvel movie jokes that have come before it. In fact, many people including myself are basically saying that most of the main characters in the film are fantasy analogues of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Chris Pine's character, a sort of charming goofball who loves music can easily be a stand-in for Peter Quill conceptually. Likewise for Holga, who conceptually could be a stand-in for Gamora, and likewise for the "I take everything literally" paladin who could be a stand-in for Drax. And so on, and so on, and so on - and Bradley Cooper even makes a cameo, which was one of my favorite parts of the movie and if you remember, he played Rocket Raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy so the link and association is definitely there. For anyone who dislikes or is tired of MCU films and shows, then you're really not going to like this movie because they just took the MCU formula and ran away with it. Also, if you're a really dedicated player or DM for D&D, you'll be of course probably not surprised that the writers didn't adhere all the time to rules, as the druid character does Wild Shape a total of like 20 times in a span of 4-5 minutes. That's more nitpicky, however.
IS IT WORTH SEEING?
If you're still sore about the OGL fiasco, then I don't think this movie will be enough to win you back. It's impossible to not see Hasbro's corporate talons digging into every possible cent they can with this movie, and in fact during the credits there is an animated sequence which reads: HASBRO'S DUNGEONS & DRAGONS (rather than Wizards of the Coast). There is already way more merchandise for this film in existence than for probably any other film I've seen in recent memory. Board games, books, action figures, Funko Pops, you name it. As a film, setting it apart from the D&D franchise - It's mostly successful and has garnered plenty of favorable reviews from respected critics. However, the run time is very bloated at two and a half hours, and they spend a lot of that time just wasting opportunities to provide more character development. Chris Pine is a very charismatic actor, and to his acting credit he completely sells his portrayal as Edgin as far as making the audience believe Chris Pine *IS* Edgin - but as some characters point out in the film, you don't get a very concrete sense of what he brings to the table despite him being in charge of the group. He doesn't use weapons, and his plans usually fail and as far as his own agency and goals, those are taken from him by other characters repeatedly. He's also supposed to be a bard, but he uses no bardic magic and seems to be more akin to a rogue. Likewise, the sorcerer is somewhat annoying because he's so bad at his job. He does redeem himself more toward the end of the film, after you've already sat for over two hours, and after almost everyone has already commented on how useless he is. Therefore, when you're a viewer and you're trying to see Elgin or the sorcerer in any sort of useful light, you may be left scratching your head. If the paladin joined the group, there's no doubt he'd become their leader and Elgin would be relegated to knitting mittens on the sidelines. Overall, it's a popcorn movie if you need a night to just watch something kind of funny, but if you're looking for anything more than that, you're not going to find it.
Let us know what you think of the movie below! - Joe